Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thing 4: Current Awareness

For Thing 4, the organizers chose a few tools which are supposed to help us keep informed about what’s going on in the library world.

I’ve been subscribed to RSS feeds since the last 23 Things in which I participated, and find it very useful as I wouldn’t remember to visit most of these blogs if I wasn’t subscribed. Being a fickle gal, there are few that I follow consistantly, but I’m fine with subscribing and unsubscribing and resubscribing based on my changing moods. Right now the only library related blog I subscribe to is LISNews because it links to posts from so many sources that I feel like I’m getting the most important stuff out there. I have an on-again off-again relationship with Librarian in Black as well and it may be time to revisit that one.

When I first began subscribing to RSS feeds I used Bloglines (link) which I really liked because it’s so simple and easy to use. For a while it shut down which caused a bit of strife as I was forced to move all my feeds to Google Reader. I hated Google Reader for reasons I can no longer even remember, and my friend Kevin and I proceeded to complain about over beer for the next month or so (because that is how exciting our lives are). Bloglines is back but I’m not about to move all my feeds again.

I recently subscribed to a bundle of book blogs called Read About Reading. A bundle is a group of RSS feeds, usually on a particular topic, that someone has compiled and that you can subscribe to with one click. You can then unsubscribe to indvidual feeds within that bundle if you’d like. This is the first bundle I’ve subscribed to and it’s is a big change because I’ve kept my number of feeds comparatively low and this means I just added dozens at one time. I’m already way behind in reading them. I’d link to the Read About Reading bundle if I knew how or could remember where I found it. Bundles are something I clearly haven’t explored enough but I’m glad I know about them now!

Twitter, our second tool up for discussion, is another matter entirely. I have an account, I follow people, I post things occasionally, but honestly I am just not a 140-character-or-less kind of person. These short posts are referred to as “microblogging” but they are more like Facebook status updates. The only meaningful information you can share in so few characters is a link to something else, which is fine but limited.

I know a lot of people love Twitter, and maybe someday I will understand that love. But for me, right now, I have enough other useful things to spend time with (like reading those 60 book blogs I just subscribed to). However, I think Twitter is a great tool for organizations such as libraries! The short format is great for mini PR items like “We just received 10 copies of the new Jennifer Weiner book today!” or “Don’t forget about our knitting workshop tomorrow at 7pm” or “Did you know that the library has books in Portuguese?” Plus, I think the library should use as many readily available means of outreach as possible, from flyers in coffee shops to the latest social networking tools.

The third tool we are exploring this week (or last week, as I am still behind) is Pushnote. I hadn’t even heard of it before because I’ve just spent two years looking for a job instead of learning anything new, but after trying it out for a few minutes early this morning I am not convinced of its usefulness. Basically, you create an account and then you can comment on websites and share these comments with friends in your network. Except we all already do this on something called Facebook which has many other important uses like playing Scrabble and stalking ex-boyfriends, so I don’t know why we’d bother to sign up for a single-function service like Pushnote.

After creating an account you must download an add-on for your browser (unless you use IE, which is not compatible with Pushnote at all.) The way it is supposed to work is that when you visit a site on which others have commented the little Pushnote star on your browser turns green (red if your friends have commented) but my star doesn’t do anything. So every time I go to a site, I have to click on the star to see if anyone has commented, which is a pain and several major sites I checked have no comments, which suggests that few people are using this. Also, I haven’t found ANY value whatsoever in the comments I’ve seen so far. “The Telegraph is great – I read it every day!” “Pushnote is great!” Yeah, most comments are from people experimenting with Pushnote and are about the tool, not the site on which they are allegedly commenting. Even if the comments were thoughtful or relevant, I’m not sure how it would improve my current awareness as much as the sites they are commenting about. Thumbs down to Pushnote.

What about you? Do you subscribe to RSS feeds? Do you find Twitter useful? Is there some value to Pushnote that I’ve overlooked? Are there other current awareness tools that you like?

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